IT COULD have been the sweet smell of success for one southeast Queensland dairy farm.
Instead, Maleny Dairies were left with a sour taste in their mouths earlier this month after 14,000 litres of their product was withdrawn from shelves because it smelt funny.
The voluntary milk recall that caused an estimated $50,000 of trouble for the small, family-owned company now appears most likely to have been caused by nothing more than healthy free-range cows munching on clover in fields the greenest they have been in years.
Test results have cleared the batch of milk caught up in the recall, leaving the likely explanation for the funky smell to be a diet of flowering clover from the flood-enriched fields their Guernsey cows graze in at the lush Sunshine Coast hinterland town.
General manager Kay Hollyoak said the company had received calls from other small milk producers interstate reporting a similar strange smell to their milk after their cows got stuck into flowering clover after heavy rain.
"In the bigger companies they have so much milk coming from so many different seasons or different areas, it just all mixes together and you can't notice anything different," Mrs Hollyoak said.
"Whereas because we don't process our milk anywhere near as much and it all comes from the same area, if there is a difference you can tell slightly. Like when a human mother will eat something it will affect her milk to the baby and it's the same with cows."
The company issued a voluntary recall through Food Standards Australia and New Zealand on October 18 after about seven phone calls reporting a strange taste, triggering the removal of hundreds of bottles of milk from store shelves from Noosa to south of Brisbane.
"It was obviously just a bit hasty in our decision to get it off the shelf," Mrs Hollyoak said.
Maleny Dairies factory owner Ross Hopper said it was free-range cows enjoying the fruits of good rainfall.
So The Sunday Mail put Maleny Milk to the taste test.
Maleny's Hilda Penney, 86, and Merle Wilkins, 85, both grew up on dairy farms and declared the milk udderly delicious.
Hilda Penney said: "I used to drink it straight out of the cow's teat when I was a little kid. It was lovely."
Merle Wilkins also enjoyed the natural taste: "It's been so long since I've tasted real cows' milk I've forgotten what it tastes like."
Read more on the Courier Mail.